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Winning Winter Reds


Westside Red TROUBLEMAKER Paso Robles – This multi-vintage red is made with Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache from the Hope Family Vineyard. Check out the winemaker Austin Hope at www.westsidered.com. Great all-purpose red and perfect with a beef stew in October. Four thousand cases produced. $19

Niner Syrah Bootjack Ranch Paso Robles 2006 – This is a new wine for me, and another excellent Syrah produced in Paso Robles. The cool nights and warm days contribute to a lengthy growing season, which can yield, as here, grapes of deep color and beautifully concentrated flavors. Ripe fruit and balancing acidity make this a versatile food wine. Blackberries, pepper and a hint of new leather. A best buy at $20.

Clos de la Siete Mendoza Red Wine 2008 – From seven vineyards in the foothills of the Andes, this is the famous “flying winemaker” Michel Rolland’s wine — 56 percent Malbec, 21 percent Merlot, 11 percent Syrah, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent Petit Verdot. Dark and rich, this wine could easily have sold out at twice the price. Rolland says, “A truly astonishing wine that is intense but shows an appealing balance and elegance …” $20

Arborbrook Pinot Noir Heritage Cuvee Willamette Valley 2008 – This is a great vintage for Oregon Pinots, and this is a definite bargain-priced winner. Smooth as silk. A wine of substance. Try with veggie or chicken pasta. $23.50

Highflyer Centerline Napa Valley 2007 – Classy, eye-catching label and an easy-drinking, but complex all-purpose red with 45 percent Syrah, 15 percent Petite Sirah, 14 percent Tempranillo and 7 percent Grenache. Unique wine from Somerston Wine Company. $28

Tudal Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007 – With the advice of superstar winemaker Kirk Venge, only the prime River Vineyard Estate grapes were used for this high-quality, low production wine. Dark color with deep aromas of black fruits. Elegant and concentrated at the same time, with a soft, underlying tannic structure portending a lengthy future. Worthy of a significantly higher price. $45

Frank Family Sangiovese Reserve Napa Valley 2008 – Tasted with cult tasting room guru (or character) Dennis Zabloski in late August, this is like a Chianti Classico from a perfect year, but with the added benefit of glorious, ripe California fruit! Cheese, tomato and meat pizzas are a good match, but I’m going to try one with veal marsala and side of spaghetti marinara at Palazzo’s on Briar Ridge. $49

En Route Pinot Noir “Les Pommiers” Russian River Valley 2008 – The second vintage of Pinot from the partners at Far Niente. Made by acclaimed winemaker Andrew Delos of MacRostie, Olivet Lane and Nickel & Nickel fame, this wine already exudes class and breed. Frost in the spring and a heat spike in May severely reduced the size of the crop, but left small, ripe berries at harvest. Ripe cherries and plums with an expansive middle taste. Supple tannins with a hint of sweet oak and earth. $50

Fess Parker Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard 2008 – From one of Santa Barbara County’s most fabled vineyards, this wine is “…big, rich and velvety on the palate, with loads of forward cherry and strawberry fruit.” It also has spice and complexity, along with subtle hints of oak. A beauty. An example of great terroir showing through. $50

Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Hyde Ranch Carneros 2007 – From Larry Hyde’s famous vineyard planted in 1979. Larry also helped develop the Hyde Calera clone, which produces extremely low yields that in turn produce wines with intensity and finesse. Dense, deeply

colored and extracted, this wine exhibits power tempered with charm. Chocolate-cherry flavors abound with hints of cranberries and strawberries. Serve with roasted chicken or grilled salmon. $60

Lynmar Estate Pinot Noir Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley 2007 – OK, folks, here’s another Pinot that’s on top of its game. Bright, beautiful cherry and pristine forest floor flavors. So good by itself, it may not ever make it past the hors d’oeuvres, but if it does, try with roasted duck with cherry sauce. Only 600 six packs produced. $65

Sanguis Novillero 2006 – Owner and musician Matthias Pippig says, “The philosophy at Sanguis is … no formulas and no sequels — nothing is more depressing than turning the process of creating something beautiful into a formula-based routine … there are easier ways to make money. If I keep myself challenged to create unique blends and an art piece (the label in this case) that suits that wine’s personality every time, I’ll make a better product.” This Syrah/Grenach blend with a tiny bit of Viognier is off-the-chart good, even at 15.6 percent alcohol. Big, rich and perfect with prime rib. Intriguing, gutsy, unique labels on the entire Sanguis line. $65

Constant Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2006 – Possibly the best 100 percent Cabernet Franc I’ve tasted — ever! From vines meticulously planted in 1997, the substance and character imparted to the grapes are a treasure. Ever since the almost unrivalled Dalla Valle Maya reds from the early ’90s, which had approximately 50 percent Cabernet Franc blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, I’ve predicted that someone would one day produce a Cabernet Franc of this magnitude and gravitas. Well, here it is. Only 150 cases. $80

Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley 2006 – This fabulous wine has not increased in price since I first started drinking it years ago. Big, robust and imminently drinkable now, here is the perfect match for a sirloin strip or rack of lamb. At La Vista on Fountainview recently, I was drinking this as were two of my friends at other tables. At that rate, it won’t be around long. $85

Constant Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 – Now that Paul Hobbs is the consulting winemaker for the affable and entertaining Mary and Freddie Constant, who have the unique home and winery (four pages in Architectural Digest) that overlooks Napa Valley and Alexander Valley from a to-die-for perch high above the fog line, the wines have stepped up to a new level of quality. Gorgeous now, this wine will increase in drinkability and value over the next five years or so. The added attraction to Constant wines is that once you have experienced the stunning home and views there, it will remain fixed in your mind, and you will be transported back each time you open one of their bottles — even many years later. By appointment only. Only 987 cases produced. $90.

By Denman Moody


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